My First Drag Pageant

This past weekend I had the pleasure of competing in Basement Arts’ first-ever drag pageant (in recent years), Lady Walgreen 2022. As someone who considers themselves a “look queen” and a bedroom queen (ie, someone who focuses on my makeup and looks and generally creates my drag in my bedroom without showing it to many other people or going out in it), this was actually my first time going out and performing in drag. And it was the best experience I could’ve ever asked for. Quite literally, I’ve never seen an audience as packed or as excited as I did in the Newman Studio last Saturday night.

The pageant had three parts: fashion, interview, and talent. For fashion, we got scored by a panel of judges (aka other students who are drag aficionados or style icons). As a look queen known for outlandish makeup, this was the category I was focused the most on. My look was a demon-like creature who had all my skin removed from my face and sections of my body, a ribcage peeking out on my chest, and muscles exposed all across my face and body. This has been some of the most extravagant and ambitious makeup I have ever done, and I couldn’t be prouder of what I ended up creating. 


The makeup was all done by me, mainly using eyeliners, face paint, and a ton of powder and patience. The ribcage is made out of cardboard I stole from a housemate and covered in duct tape, and the hair is similarly held up by a cardboard frame for the horns. The skirt is a long, ugly thrifted skirt I found, cut up, and stained with fake blood just hours before. Who said you can’t create stunning drag on a budget?

A lot of my drag is freaky, alien, and just a tad bit insane, and this look was no different. And the audience loved it, from the cheering I got the moment I stepped out. Not to brag, but I was the only queen to get a perfect score of tens across the board for my look, which honestly was the biggest win in my book. Listen, I’m a look queen through and through and to be validated on my effort in my looks is the most amazing thing for me.

Next came the interview, which might have been the most chaotic part of the night. I’d like to first apologize to the couch, which has incurred a large red mark from when I decided to man-spread across it during my interview. Rip to that couch (and the one section of my body I didn’t set with powder well enough).

The final part was the talent portion, which included performances of incredible dance numbers, live singing, a spoken-word version of “I’m Sexy And I Know It”, and for me, a pair of rollerblades and licking blood off the floor of the Newman. I may not be the best dancer, but I did create a memorable performance of falling flat on my face, spilling blood all across the floor, and then getting up to lick all the blood off my fingers and garner the most wonderfully disgusting responses from the audience as Kim Petras played. Honestly, what more could I ask for of my first live performance?

While I didn’t make top two (congrats to ElleXL, our Lady Walgreen winner, and Tampa, the runner-up), I don’t think I’ve ever cheered louder during a lip-sync than I did for those two going CRAZY to “I Will Survive”. Seriously, you’ve never seen a performance like theirs. Plus, who cares about winning? I not only got to show off my art to a huge audience of my friends and classmates, I also made some of the most wonderful friends. There’s truly something so joyful about a room of queer folks all half in drag, taking shots and helping each other out. When I couldn’t find my eyelash glue, Tampa offered me hers. I did Mrs. Worldwide’s makeup since it was her first time in drag, and Olympia offered me hairspray to keep my wig down. There could not have been a more different group of performers up there on that stage, but each and every one was incredible and it was such an incredible honor to see them all perform. Shout out to the UMich drag scene and shout out to everyone who came out to the Newman last weekend! And to Basement Arts for hosting!

Clowns Have a Union (and I Think That’s Neat)

I saw a post recently about how clowns have a union (which is true) and how strange that is, and how drag queens don’t have a union. I’m no expert on unions and economics, so I’m not going to try and sound smart talking about that here. But the connections between clowns and drag queens certainly interest me. I mean, what really is the difference between them? We both wear a ton of makeup, often try to look a bit ridiculous, and we’re both entertainers– just for slightly different age groups. 

According to, the profession of clown is as follows: “Clowns dress in outlandish costumes, paint their faces, and use a variety of performance skills to entertain audiences. They work in circuses, amusement parks, schools, malls, rodeos, and hospitals, as well as on stage, in films, and even on the street. Clowns are actors and comedians whose job is to make people laugh.”

According to Wikipedia, drag queens are people who “use[] drag clothing and makeup to imitate and often exaggerate female gender signifiers and gender roles for entertainment purposes… People partake in the activity of doing drag for reasons ranging from self-expression to mainstream performance. Drag shows… occur at events like pride parades, carnivals, drag pageants, and in venues such as cabarets and nightclubs.”

Clearly, there are distinct differences here. But when it boils down to the details, there are a lot of similarities too. Drag queens and clowns work in a wide variety of different locations and events and utilize a variety of performance skills to entertain audiences. I’ve seen a drag queen fix a computer as part of her act before, so there’s really no performance skill that hasn’t been utilized as a part of a drag show. They both wear outlandish costumes and paint their faces, and as drag moves further and further away from regular gendered norms, outlandish and bizarre makeup is a more normalized part of what we expect with drag. Some queens even actively choose to paint more like clowns, myself included many times.

So then what really separates drag artists from clowns? Is it just because we don’t have to go to school for it? If I start making balloon animals, will I suddenly switch from being a drag artist to a clown?

I think what defines drag artists from clowns, or makeup artists or gogo dancers or burlesque performers or any of those other performer types is truly the artists themselves and what they make of their drag art. Drag is what you make it, it’s a performance of self-expression. There’s no real rules to drag, certain way things have to be done. It’s all up to the artist themself. Also, we don’t need degrees to do drag. Sorry clowns.

So it doesn’t matter if I’m dressing in a clown-themed drag look if I’m making balloon animals or riding a unicycle or pulling handkerchiefs out of my sleeve. I’m still a drag artist, I’m still doing my drag in my own expressionist way. But we still don’t have a union as drag artists. Maybe that is something that could happen in the future. Who knows!

Shout Out to the Kings

Now, in most settings, you might say “a queen doesn’t need a man! Fuck having a king!” And normally I’d agree with you. However, many drag queens are cis gay men (by now in this article we should all have learned that you do NOT have to be a cis gay man to be a drag queen and we stan all the trans and AFAB drag queens!!!) and many drag kings are trans men, cis women, or nonbinary icons. Drag kings are certainly a less popular sect of drag, but definitely not any less incredible in terms of performers and artistry. Just because RuPaul’s Drag Race would feature any drag kings doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paying the MOST attention to these icons. So, I’m gonna go through a few of my favorites!


Tenderoni (@tenderoni88)

Tenderoni is THEE Chicago drag king and the current 2021 winner of the Drag Queen of the Year Pageant


Landon Cider (@landoncider)

The winner of season 3 of the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula who has been on tours with Drag Race queens and an icon in his own accord.


Luc Ami (@luc.ami)

Another Chicago icon, this alien drag deity creates some of the most stunning artistry and hosts Queeriod, a drag show for new drag talents!


Inah Demons (@inahdemons)

Considered the “Tumblr Sexyman of Drag”, Inah is a Filipino drag artist who creates incredibly unique and colorful looks online that are truly one of a kind.


Shay They (@shaythey)

A New York drag quing clown who’s stunning in a clown white face and iconic mustache. If you’re in New York and they’re performing, you have to go see them!


Luv Ami (@luvamiking)

Luc Ami’s drag son, a young Chicago king who brings the PERFORMANCE and the looks. 


Vigor Mortis (@heyvigormortis)

A Brooklyn king who does burlesque and drag, known for some chaos and silliness and who I’ve had the great honor to see him perform with googly eyes all over his body.


K. James (@k.james_switchnplay)

Another Brooklyn king who’s a member of the Switch n Play collective and is the coolest cat in Brooklyn drag, and everyone is also in love with.


Andro Gin (@androginking)

The definition of makeup artistry, Andro has some of the most iconic looks and the most beautiful creations put together on their face.


ShowPonii (@showponii)

Another Brooklyn king, ShowPonii is an icon with his clown-white face and unique sense of artistry.


PB (@vainglorious_pb)

Another fresh face of Chicago drag, with a stamped face and some incredible performances. They may be new to the scene, but definitely give them a look!


Dungeons and Drag(ons)

I have the utmost respect for cosplayers and cosplay queens, but I myself am not one. Cosplayers, for the uninitiated, are people who dress as a character from a movie, book, or video game. These artists use painstaking detail in their recreations of outfits and wigs, and I’ve witnessed some that included tentacles, working wings that would pop out, satyr goat legs, a fully working back half of a centaur, and tons more. Cosplayers are some of the most incredibly talented artists around.

As a drag artist who can lean into the more bizarre or inhuman side of drag, some people might mistake me for a cosplayer. After all, most mainstream drag doesn’t include people with bright red or blue skin tones or wearing elf ears or such. However, as I am not trying to make accurate recreations of any character that already exists, this would be an incorrect label for me. Furthermore, drag is performance art. While plenty of drag artists focus on their looks or online presence or don’t perform live much, they are still not cosplayers. A drag queen is not required to perform, although the majority do. 

So in accordance to all that I’ve laid out above, we can come to the conclusion that I am, in fact, not a cosplayer (although I wish I had so many of their incredible construction skills). However, this doesn’t bar me, as a drag artist (or any drag artist) from creating cosplays or cosplay-esque looks. For me, my more fantasy character looks lean toward cosplay, and I’ve even created looks inspired by characters who exist in the Critical Role world of Exandria.


See, aside from drag, I adore playing Dungeons&Dragons, also known as D&D. I also love live-play D&D shows, particularly Critical Role, a Twitch-streamed D&D series of eight (now nine!) voice actors playing large campaigns of D&D over several years. They’ve grown from a single home game to three full-length campaigns, hundreds of thousands of hours of content, millions of fans around the world, several canonical books detailing the world Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer created, and now an animated series on Amazon Prime. They’re kind of a big deal. And I’m kind of obsessed with them and with D&D as a whole!

So this week’s look was inspired by Opal, the Twice-Crowned from their Exandria Unlimited series, created and played by Aimee Carrero. While it’s not a totally accurate recreation of how Opal appeared in the campaign, it’s my version of her character. And one of my most popular looks, surprisingly enough! 

What “Makes Up” A Drag Queen

Makeup and I have a very strange relationship. I’ve gone through phases of wearing a full face, wearing no makeup, nothing but red eyeshadow, winged eyeliner, funky colorful eyeliner… you get the gist. I started experimenting with drag makeup two years ago, and back then everything on my face mainly came from drug stores. And to be totally fair, most of what I use two years into my drag career still comes from CVS and Target, since a lot of it is cheap and totally works! So I’m gonna break down the makeup I use on the regular for my drag, and my favorite brands to buy from!

The look I’m using utilizes most of the makeup I use and pretty much all of my favorite brands! As seen above, it’s a green medley artistry look with funky eyeliner shapes, glitter and sparkles, and my distinct black lip and lack of brows.

Like most drag queens, I use Elmer’s disappearing glue sticks to glue down my eyebrows. Surprisngly, those kindergarten glue sticks are still the best for glueing brows! I use elf Hydrating Face Primer and cover my brows with The Crayon Case concealer in the lightest shade, as well as my foundation in Wet n Wild photofocus Stick Foundation and Krylon Paint Stick in “TV White”, a staple of many drag queens. My eyeliner is NYX’s Epic Wear eyeliner, and I use Kim Chi Chic Beauty’s The Most Conealer in shade “White” to create my eye crease. And then the fun stuff:

The greens and yellows here are part of the Mango Tango and Virgin Mojito palettes from Kim Chi Chic Beauty. The glitter on my lips and nose is from Midas Cosmetics in shades “Soul” and “Mermaid”. All the eyeliner detailing is either NYX or Glisten Cosmetics, and the black facepaint on my neck is from the Amythest Painting Palette. My go-to black lip is a mixture of NYX Epic Ink eyeliner and Sephora black liquid lipstick.

Besides my drug store basics, I try to mostly shop from queer-owned, black-owned, or other small businesses for most of my makeup. The Crayon Case is an amazing black-owned beauty brand themed around school supplies, Midas Cosmetics is a afro-latina-owned indie brand that offers cruelty-free and vegan glitters and eyeshadows, and Beauty Bakerie (which I didn’t use for this look) is a black-owned makeup brand themed around, you guessed it, a bakery! My current go-to brand is Kim Chi Chic Cosmetics, created and owned by Kim Chi, an Asian drag queen who’s makeup artistry is To Die For! Her brand has adorable themeing with teddy bear palettes, drink-themed eyeshadow palettes, adorable heart-shaped blushes and highlights… literally the cutest brand. So if you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that Pinball is Obsessed with KCC Beauty and that cheap makeup doesn’t have to be bad makeup!!



There’s More Drag Than Just Drag Race

The premiere of season 14 of the Emmy-winning competition show Rupaul’s Drag Race airs tonight, and while I still plan to watch it with my housemates, I think we should take a moment to remind the audience that Rupaul’s Drag Race (or RPDR, as I’ll shorten it to in this article often), is NOT the bible of drag nor the ideal goal for most drag artists. And just because you watch RPDR does NOT make you an expert on drag. While Drag Race has been amazing for bringing drag into the mainstream, supporting tons of nightlife performers and drag artists, and giving queer people a platform to showcase their art unlike everything else, it’s also done a lot to harm drag artists and drag as a whole.

Drag Race began in 2009 and was the first drag competition show to ever hit a mainstream audience. It was, in its early days, unapologetically queer and made some jokes that have since been removed because they were… well… Bad (looking at you “shemale”). The show was incredible for gay representation, awareness around HIV with Ongina in season 1, heartbreaking stories about gay men, and a beautiful (and sort of insanely unhinged) platform for drag queens to be seen as real artists. But it was also inherently misogynistic and transphobic. Drag itself is NOT misogynistic or transphobic, let’s make that very clear. Crossdressing, female impersonation and drag itself has never been those things. And drag has always been an art form populated by more than cis gay men: cis women are drag queens and kings, trans women are some of the original creators of drag and most prominent queens in our history, and nonbinary people have always been involved in drag since it’s earliest days. But RPDR did not showcase these elements of drag. Only cis men were allowed to audition for the show, and in season 5 one of the queens on the show, Monica Beverly Hills, revealed she had to stop her transition as a trans woman to even be on the show because they wouldn’t allow her to come if she had fully transitioned.

Season 9 of Drag Race featured the first trans woman who was out prior to being cast on the show as Peppermint. Peppermint was very open about her transness on the show, but it was rarely brought up aside from her “tragic backstory” moments to win the show an Emmy. Gottmik was the first trans man to be cast on the show in season 13 last year, who was very open about his own transition and place in the drag community, wearing runways that showed off top surgery scars on the main stage. This year also saw the return of Kylie Sonique Love, who came out as a trans woman at the end of season 2 of the show and returned to win All Stars 6 this summer as the first trans winner of the show, and this season has introduced Kornbread “The Snack” Jete and Kerri Colby, two trans women who are competing on this season. 

So certainly in later years, RPDR has started making strides towards being more inclusive and featuring trans artists on the show, but for a show that is meant to show a community that was literally built on the backs of trans women, it’s horribly behind and paints a very skewed image of drag as a whole. And it’s been, for years, not showcasing the trans people who even make up so much of the drag community across the world. So don’t go congratulating Drag Race for having a few trans women on season 14: they’re doing the bare minimum fourteen seasons late.

RPDR also had it’s first cis woman on season 3 of the UK version of Drag Race, also this year. Cis women have been drag queens forever and are a huge part of the drag scene, so RPDR’s refusal to include them and cast them on the show does not go unnoticed. Drag kings are also a huge part of drag as a whole, and not a Single drag king has ever been cast on drag race, despite the show often doing “masculine drag” challenges thatalmost feel like a mockery of drag kings.

Does this all mean we shouldn’t support Drag Race anymore? No, not entirely. While the show has tons of other issues besides these (their villainization of black queens, the heavy editing, the psychological abuse of the contestants, problematic challenges and queens, etc), it’s still a fun show and has been incredibly queer representation for years, as well as incredible for helping drag queens who would never have had the level of success and financial support the show has given them. But it’s important to be aware that there is SO MUCH MORE DRAG than just what appears on Drag Race. There are other shows that feature drag artists such as Dragula, Camp Wannakiki, La Mas Draga, and beyond that, there’s local drag in every city across the United States AND drag queens to create content online if you’re can’t find any local drag (Evah Destruction, Nemesis LaCroix, the Stream Queens network, etc.). So enjoy the season premiere of Drag Race, but don’t let your consumption of drag end there!

This week’s look is just a fun one to get hyped about the new season of RPDR cause yeah, I’m still excited for it.